A celebration of the NBA's most infuriating players, both past and present. Read other NBA Shit List entries here.
Tony Massenburg spent four seasons at Maryland in the late 1980s, the post-Len Bias years, when the program was quickly becoming a catch-basin for misfortune. The forward-center played for three different coaches in College Park, and the experience established the central themes of Massenburg's life in basketball: uncertainty, contingency, abandonment.
Check out the path of his professional career:
Looking at that map, can't you almost picture the player in question? Little guys rarely hold up long enough to be so well-traveled. Tall centers soon tire of cramming their gouty knees and bad backs onto airplanes. Massenburg was 6-foot-9 and a muscular 220 pounds—big enough and mobile enough to always find a job, but never good enough to stick around, a journeyman in both the strict and the popular sense of the word. He was a force in college in the face of adversity—18 and 10 his senior year—and that triumph qualified him to be a spare part in the NBA. He wasn't a disappointment or a frustration, individually. He was the embodiment of the systemic disappointments and frustrations at the end of every bench in every basketball city, where players of a certain size and skill set—powerful, meaningful players in college—learn that what had once been their ceiling is the NBA's floor.
The Shit List archives: Nick Young | Anthony Carter | Toney Douglas | Bill Cartwright | Dahntay Jones | DeShawn Stevenson | Michael Sweetney | Eddie House | Sasha Vujacic | Voshon Lenard | Eric Leckner | Dwight Howard | Andris Biedrins | Antawn Jamison | Don Nelson | Nate Robinson
From 1990 to 2005, Massenburg put up 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in stints with 12 NBA clubs, the last figure being a league record he shares with Chucky Brown, Jim Jackson, and Joe Smith. In 2007, two years after wrecking his ankle in an early-morning car accident, he tried to make a comeback with a 13th franchise, the Wizards. The 40-year-old was waived in the preseason. Think about that for too long, and it'll break your heart: Massenburg, after years of dutiful service to the league, was deemed unfit to be the worst player on the Wizards roster and thus was denied the honor of standing all by himself on a list of all-time durable mediocrities.
Massenburg is indisputably basketball's most depressing traveler, however. He changed teams 18 times, and he was forced to relocate 19 times (bonus move as part of Vancouver/Memphis, 2001). Outside of those 12 NBA teams, he played for Pallacanestro Reggiana (Italy), Unicaja-Mayoral (Spain), and FC Barcelona (Spain). After being cut by the Wizards, he ended his career with Los Capitanes of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. They released him.
In 2005, Sports Illustrated asked him for a travelogue. Of his time with the Hornets (1991; waived), he once said: "I have no fond memories of Charlotte. I lived out of the Hyatt by the arena. I wasn't feeling it." Of his time with the Sixers (1996; became a free agent), he said: "Knowing I wouldn't be there long, I spent a lot of time on South Street and at King of Prussia Mall shopping." Of his time with the Grizzlies (1997-99; traded to Houston), he said: "[T]here are things you can't get in Vancouver, like Cap'n Crunch."
Cap'n Crunch. He had seen the world, but only through the eyes of a guy in town briefly on business. He liked food that reminded him of home. Even his exotic travels managed to be unexotic—a McOdyssey.
In 2011, Massenburg opened a sports bar. In 2012, it closed.